Nationals reliever Craig Stammen said his fastball was fine, but he never was able to command his slider and that contributed to a rough 11th inning. The Orioles slammed two of their three homers in that extra frame off of Stammen as the Nats fell 8-2.
“I made some good pitches with my fastball, but my slider was just so bad that it didn’t really matter what happened,” Stammen said. “But I felt confident, I felt I put it behind me, but it just didn’t work out.”
Chris Davis’ two-run shot broke the tie in the 11th and came on a 3-2 pitch.
“I thought I made a good pitch. Threw it right where I wanted to,” Stammen said. “I may have thought it was a strike, but I’m not the umpire so it doesn’t matter.
“I really did not think he would be able to hit that pitch out. But he was right on it and he was looking for it. It was a little bit higher than I wanted it. He made a good swing on it.”
Stammen said it is a lonely feeling when you don’t have all your pitches working at a critical juncture. The pitching coach can come out, but there are no timeouts and the mound feels more like an island. For Stammen that feeling was filled with anxiety when he couldn’t get his slider to work.
“You’re trying to figure it out. You’re kind of hoping you find it and some point,” Stammen said. “It was actually really good in the bullpen. It was one of those driving range sliders I had today.”
Earlier, starter Stephen Strasburg put together seven innings, allowing only a Nelson Cruz two-run homer. He was able to strike nine batters. He has struck out eight or more hitters in three of his last four starts.
“I just wanted to go out there and try and build off the last start,” Strasburg said. “Just focus on executing the pitches and play great defense and it was tough how it ended, but new day tomorrow. Just trying not to analyze every pitch as much and just get into the flow of the game.”
Manager Matt Williams suggested that Strasburg’s quicker tempo contributed to his uniform performance. Strasburg agreed with that assessment by not thinking too much about each pitch and instead letting them fly.
“I was having a great year and I just need to do a better job of being smart with the location and not necessarily getting into the whole challenge, challenge, challenge,” Strasburg said. “I feel like I pitched them differently it seemed to work a little better in my favor.”
Strasburg acknowledged that Cruz was a tough out and broke down the matchups.
“I think (the) first AB, honestly I think (he) thought it was a fastball that was coming, but he put a good swing on it,” Strasburg said. “I think it got in on his hands and dumped one over there into right. Next one I didn’t execute the curveball well enough. Just trying to bounce it, just kind of hung up there and he hit it in the hole.”
Second baseman Anthony Rendon provided the offense for the Nationals with a two-run shot in the sixth that tied the game at 2-2.
Rendon said Orioles starter Chris Tillman mixed up his velocity all night, which kept the Nationals hitters off balance.
“Nothing was the same speed the whole night,” Rendon said. “His fastball was never the same speed. He changed speeds awesome. That’s how he got to us. I think he just left the fastball up.”
He also provided a simple solution to the Nationals miserable extra-innings record this season.
“Score more runs in the extra-innings will change 2-8.”
Notes: Strasburg and Stammen spoke about the atmosphere at Nats Park with a lot of orange shirts representing Orioles fans in attendance.
“Maybe someday it’ll be different,” Strasburg said. “Obviously, that franchise has been around a lot longer than we have. Can’t really worry about it too much so hopefully our fans travel well after tomorrow.”
“It’s good for baseball,” Stammen said. “It’s good for the fans around here have something excited about. Fun to be here.”